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CWA e-Newsletter: May 21, 2015

CWA e-Newsletter

Want to be in next week's CWA Newsletter? Send your stories and photos to blog@cwa-union.org or @CWANews. Follow the latest developments at www.resistancegrowing.org.

Read CWA's Statement on Today's Senate Action on Fast Track

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"CWA commends the 38 Senators who today voted against the motion to proceed on Fast Track, or Trade Promotion Authority. Thirty-three Democrats, or 73 percent of the Senate Democratic Caucus, voted no.

"The limited discussion just this week in the Senate showed the serious concerns that surround Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Senators should not give away their right to amend a trade deal that has been negotiated in secrecy and is virtually complete.

"There is strong opposition in the House to moving forward on Fast Track. Currently, the Democratic opposition in the House is overwhelming, and rejection there remains a real possibility.

Our broad coalition – workers, environmental activists, immigrant rights activists, students, public health and consumer groups and so many others – continues to mobilize against Fast Track and the TPP with millions of Americans demanding to be heard."


CWA Activists' Unprecedented Efforts to Defeat Fast Track, TPP

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CWA Activists joined with labor allies, environmentalists, and grassroots activists across the country in continuing to hold lawmakers accountable for their positions on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Lawmakers who are opposing Fast Track continue to face pressure to cave in to the demands of Big Business. CWAers are both pressuring lawmakers who are on the fence to oppose Fast Track and pressuring those supporting Fast Track to change their mind.

Along with rallies, town hall meetings and countless meetings with and phone calls to their members of Congress, CWAers and coalition allies have also written letters and prevailed on others to do the same. The letters collected for delivery to members of Congress, 14,500 in all, is the largest haul of letters that CWA has ever collected on any given campaign and it is hallmark of the conviction and the hard work of our activists on this most important of all issues.

And they have not stopped.

They are still rallying, holding meetings and sit-ins in offices and calling and writing letters to their representatives to tell them to do the right thing and reject Fast Track.

Rep. Evan Jenkins Receives a Delegation

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Last week, Rep. Evan Jenkins (D-WV 3rd District) came out to acknowledge requests from activists that he stand up for good jobs in West Virginia by rejecting Fast Track for the TPP. The delegation included the Rev. Dennis Ashworth, former WVEA Teacher and Retired FOP, IUE/CWA Local 821670 President Danny Sallie; retired USW and ARA member Bob Adkins; Tim Milne, President Southwestern District Labor Council; IBEW #317 Retiree and ARA member Jerry Booth; West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue; CWA LPAT Coordinator and CWA Local 2001 Secretary-Treasurer Robin Young; Rep. Evan Jenkins; CWA International Representative Elaine Harris; and Elson Garrett, IBEW #317 Retiree and ARA member.

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Sen. Manchin Praises CWA for Leading Fight against Fast Track, TPP

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U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) came to Steel of West Virginia, Inc., on Friday to show his opposition to Fast Track and the TPP, and his support for workers at the plant, who could be greatly affected by the proposed trade agreement. Manchin was joined by Steel of West Virginia CEO Tim Duke, CWAers, United Steelworkers members and other allies. Manchin praised CWA and USW for being out front on this issue.

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IUE-CWA Political Action Training Focus on TPP

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Members of IUE-CWA met in Dayton, Ohio, on Monday and Tuesday to develop union members' political leadership skills. Among the topics covered included the campaign to fight the TPP and their union's use of handwritten letters as part of a legislative campaign.

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Colorado CWAers Join Sit-In at Jared Polis's Office

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Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO 2nd District) continues to hear from CWAers and other activists about his support for Fast Track. Activists sat in his office waiting to be heard this week, but Polis seems have wax in his ears when it comes to listening to his constituents on trade.

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Massachusetts IUE Members Push Against Fast Track

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IUE-CWA 81201 organized outside Rep. Seth Moulton's (D-MA 6th District) office on May 8th as part of a number of much larger actions.

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Message Sen. Diane Feinstein: Clean out your ears and listen to us!

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A labor delegation including CWA, UFCW, NALC and Machinists visited the office of Senator Diane Feinstein in Fresno, CA, to deliver giant Q-tips and a message: Vote No on Fast Track and the TPP! The delegation spoke with the senator's staff and demanded the Senator vote No on Fast Track. The group then marched to the office of Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA 20th District), where they also demanded he listen to his constituents and vote No when the bill lands in the House.

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Kudos for Rep. Norma Torres for Opposing Fast Track

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United Steelworkers, IATSE and CWA activists thank Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA 35th District) for opposing Fast Track.

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Secretary Clinton, Take a Stand on Fast Track

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Americans for Democratic Action Iowa and CWA members hold an anti-Fast Track press conference outside a Hillary Clinton campaign event in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

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A Hundred Voters Tell Ohio's Mike Turner, Vote No on Fast Track

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More than 100 activists urge Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH 10th District) to vote No on Fast Track for the TPP. 

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CWAers Urge Rep. Sinema to Stick to Her Commitment to Oppose Fast Track

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The Arizona Republic interviewed CWA Local 7019 Exec. Vice President Paul Castaneda as CWAers rallied outside the office of Rep. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ 15th District) to get her to stick to the commitment she made last year to oppose Fast Track. Rep. Sinema seemed to backtrack last week when she said she'll have to look at the eventual bill.

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Meanwhile, in Hollywood...

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Hollywood, FL, joined the ranks of municipalities and other entities passing resolutions against Fast Track and the TPP. In Florida alone, the city will join South Miami, Hialeah Gardens, Hallandale beach and Glen Haven in approving resolutions.


Iowa CWAers Made Presence Felt at Weekend Caucus Events

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CWA activists made their presence felt at weekend political events all across Iowa.

CWA Iowa State Council President Steve Abbott said activists at a Hillary Clinton Cedar Falls event were not there to protest but to get Clinton to stake out a position on Fast Track and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that is currently under negotiation.

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CWA members had a booth where they shared information on Fast Track and the TPP and engaged grassroots partners.

The assembled national and local media descended on CWA District 7 Staff Representative Bonnie Winther, who was carrying a "No TPP" sign outside the event. The Des Moines Register interviewed Winther about her response to what Clinton had to say, namely that she needed to know more before taking a position on TPP, and ran a photo of her holding the sign.

"I'm disappointed that she's not ready to respond to the question in a way that would satisfy the people who support her," Winther said in the story.

"Democratic presidential contenders campaigning in Iowa need to step up now and tell us 'which side they are on,' " CWA President Larry Cohen wrote in Huffington Post. "The President controls trade policy so what these candidates say on trade is far more consequential than on issues that require congressional approval...Secretary Clinton, Senator Sanders and other Democrats in Iowa owe it to the Party to speak out now when it matters."

Secretary Clinton expressed concern about the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision of the proposed pact that she said gives "corporations more power to overturn health and environmental and labor rules than consumers have."

"I think that is a problem," Clinton said during a roundtable event in Iowa, when one woman participating in the event asked her about the deal.

Local 7117 Organizer Kay Pence attended former Texas Governor Rick Perry's event in Dewitt, IA. Perry took just one question after his talk and it was from Pence, who asked about TPP. The NBC and ABC affiliates then interviewed her afterward.


CWAers Participate in "Working Families Summit" in Iowa

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The Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO held a standing-room only "Working Families Summit" at Iowa State University to discuss how to wrest the government back from the wealthy.

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More than 500 active leaders from 56 organizations spent the Saturday at the Ames campus of Iowa State University, in general sessions and workshops uniting around issues and strategies at the Working Families Summit.

More than 500 participants in the summit came from 56 organizations, including groups such as Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI); Iowa Citizen Action Network (ICAN); Progress Iowa; League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); Iowa State Education Association (ISEA); Iowa Citizen Action Network (ICAN); Americans for Democratic Action (ADA); Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA); Iowa Policy Project; Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa; Iowa Community Action Association; Iowa Main Street Alliance; Fair Share-Iowa and the American Friends Service Committee.

The summit's featured speakers included former U.S. Labor Secretary and U.C. Berkeley Public Policy Professor Robert Reich and CWA President Larry Cohen as keynoters. They held work sessions on topics such as wages, immigration, health care, and education.

"We were labor and green, students and seniors, farmers and community organizers, urban and rural, immigrants and native born, all realizing that more than ever, we have a common narrative based on democracy and economic justice that goes beyond our organizational silos, as important as those silos may be," Cohen wrote in his Huffington Post column.

Reich discussed "Making America Work for the Many, Not Just the Few," in his remarks.

"People ask me what country we should emulate; I say we should emulate America when we created the largest middle class the world had ever seen, when we had upward mobility, when we were on the road to equal opportunity," The Ames Tribune reported Reich saying in his speech. 

Mike Vajda, an employee at RELCO Locomotives, was one of three Iowans who opened the summit with stories about unionization efforts and fighting wage theft, according to the Des Moines Register.


Candidates for President: Which Side Are You On?

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Read President Cohen's latest HuffPost blog on Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Saturday, at Iowa State University, more than 500 active leaders from 56 organizations spent a day in general sessions and workshops uniting around issues and strategies at the Working Families Summit. I had been to Iowa in previous presidential election years as Presidential campaigns warmed up, but Saturday's conference was not about a candidate or even a platform. It was broader than that.

Recognizing that the leading candidates who are eventually the party nominees will raise and spend in excess of $2 billion, on Saturday, Iowans were energized by the longer road through the nominating process, the 2016 election and beyond. Big money in politics has changed our democracy but, on Saturday, populism was alive and well – despite the hard path ahead.

We were labor and green, students and seniors, farmers and community organizers, urban and rural, immigrants and native born, all realizing that more than ever, we have a common narrative based on democracy and economic justice that goes beyond our organizational silos, as important as those silos may be.

In years past, hosts of a meeting like this might have invited presidential candidates. But these 56 organizations with tens of thousands of Iowa members realize now that the path to real change on the national level is blocked by structural issues in our democracy and will likely continue to be blocked for years to come.

For a presidential candidate, the current debate on Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership is central to credibility on any claim to a populist agenda. The issue in Iowa is not trade or no trade, as some apologists for Fast Track try to argue. The issue is what kind of ground rules do we want so that we can evaluate trade deals after 20 years of corporate trade agreements that mostly are meant to protect the investment profits of multinational corporations.

For example, why is the U.S. the only nation of the 12 current TPP partners considering Fast Track? Under Fast Track, Congress all but signs off on adoption of trade deals for the next six years with no authority to amend, and agrees to quick up or down votes. This goes well beyond the TPP and President Obama, since Fast Track would likely last for six years. Eight of the 12 TPP nations are democracies and their parliament or Congress will read the full document before taking any action. With 90 percent of the TPP already negotiated, the only real reason for Fast Track for the TPP is the growing realization that the TPP never would be adopted if it was subject to careful review and meaningful congressional oversight.

Why has there been little modification in the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process in the leaked chapters of TPP despite rising global opposition? ISDS means private and virtually secret tribunals where multinational corporations can sue national and local governments for any governmental action that limits the corporation's future profits. Currently there are 500 such cases pending.

Philip Morris has sued Australia and Uruguay for implementing plain package cigarette labeling. Occidental Petroleum has won a $2.3 billion judgment against Peru for limiting its right to drill based on environmental concerns. The U.S. Trade Representative answers the criticism by saying the U.S. has not lost a case yet. But Ambassador Froman knows full well that ISDS provides incentives for moving investment outside the U.S., by guaranteeing that future profits are insulated from stronger environmental or other regulations in other nations.

Democratic presidential contenders campaigning in Iowa need to step up now and tell us "which side they are on." The President controls trade policy so what these candidates say on trade is far more consequential than on issues that require congressional approval.

For Democrats campaigning in Iowa, the case is even clearer. Two-thirds of Senate Democrats and 80-plus percent of House Democrats are opposing Fast Track. Are we going to nominate a Presidential candidate who turns her/his back on those who are running for office at the same time? Just as importantly in Iowa and across the nation, the entire base of the Democratic Party is saying "No" to Fast Track.

Secretary Clinton, Senator Sanders and other Democrats in Iowa owe it to the Party to speak out now when it matters. Particularly in the House, the vote in several weeks will be very close. Dodging the issue will lead to little accountability in the campaign and in the years ahead.

Saturday was inspirational for so many reasons. For me it renewed my hope that working families in Iowa and across our nation are ready to Stand Up and Fight Back!


President Cohen's Last Town Hall Call

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Join us today for CWA President Larry Cohen's last town hall call before he steps down in June. Cohen will answer questions submitted by participants about movement building, the future of organizing, collective bargaining, and share his perspective on the future.

The call starts at 7:30 pm ET and lasts about a half hour. You can listen to the call online at cwa-union.org/cwalisten.

Over the past four years we've come together each month on these calls to share what we have learned about building our movement for economic justice and democracy. Along the way we've gathered strength: from the 2011 protests in Wisconsin and bargaining fights, through our successful fight to change the Senate rules on nominations, to our battle against Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


CWA "Thanks" Chris Christie in Ad

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It was typical Chris Christie bluster as the New Jersey governor held a town hall in Kenilworth, New Jersey, on March 31, 2015.

"Let me tell you something, these public employees should be sending me a thank you note," he said.

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And what should New Jersey public employees be sending Christie a "thank you note" for? Well, for breaking the law by not funding their pensions.

CWA, which represents 60,000 public workers in New Jersey, sent Christie his "thank you note" in the form of an advertisement that points out:

  • New Jersey's pension system is the most underfunded of all 50 states.
  • Christie gave millionaires $3 billion in tax breaks, corporations $5.4 billion in subsidies, and $1.5 billion to Wall Street firms.

In 2011, Christie and state lawmakers passed a law stripping public workers of bargaining rights over pensions and health care. Then they raised workers' pension contributions, upped the age of retirement and slashed cost-of-living adjustments. In return, Christie said the state said would put more money into the pension system each year to make amends for previous funding shortfalls by the government.

While workers kept their word, Christie reneged.

Christie made his insulting "workers should thank me" statement after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that he violated the state Constitution by not funding the pensions.

CWA and more than a dozen labor unions filed the lawsuit and recently made the case at oral arguments before the state Supreme Court that, under the constitution, the governor must increase payments into the pension system.

"Dear Gov. Christie," began the voice-over on the Ad, "thank you for breaking the law and skipping pension payments, for destroying services and risking our retirement security to coddle millionaires and corporations with tax breaks and subsidies, for forcing workers to pay more while handing Wall Street outrageous fees for managing the pensions."


AFA-CWA: It's Time to Stop Illegal Subsidies to Gulf State Airlines

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Multi-billion dollar subsidies by the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline have resulted in the "text book" example of an un-level playing field and violate longstanding agreements with the U.S. and other nations.

That's why the three largest U.S.-based international carriers and aviation unions including AFA-CWA, the Air Line Pilots Association, the Allied Pilots Association, the Teamsters, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, Transport Workers Union and Southwest Airlines Pilots Association have joined forces and formed the Partnership for Open and Fair Skies. The coalition is calling on the U.S. government to take these concerns up immediately with representatives of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

AFA-CWA International President Sara Nelson said these illegal subsidies – more than $42 billion over the past decade – mean Gulf carriers can fly oversized planes that aren't even half full on major international routes. "After ten years of bankruptcies at U.S. airlines, lost pensions, drastic wage cuts and lost jobs, Flight Attendants and other aviation workers will tell you from experience that no airline can operate for long under those conditions without subsidies. Gulf carriers, propped up by their governments, can tip the scales in their favor and crowd American carriers out. That's not just bad news for consumers looking for international options; it is bad news for our economy and the small or mid-sized cities that make it thrive."

Read Nelson's column in the Huffington Post.

A new analysis released by Georgetown University professor Dr. Rob Britton, "Reconsidering the U.S.-UAE Aviation Relationship," found that every time a U.S. airline loses a route to one of these Gulf carriers, a net loss of more than 800 U.S. jobs is the result. "If the U.S. government does nothing about the Gulf states' Open Skies violations, service at all major hub airports will be at risk, and small cities may lose their flights and their connections to other communities," Nelson said.

In a letter to Congress, seven union leaders pointed out that, "Because Qatar and the UAE have banned unions or have severely restricted any right of association, Gulf carrier workers do not have legal rights or say in work conditions or safety standards. These factors are allowing the Gulf carriers to expand precipitously, harming American companies in the process."

They called on Congress to join with the administration to resolve the subsidies issue with the UAE and Qatar.

CWA locals in Detriot wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker about the issue.

Tell the Obama administration to defend U.S. aviation jobs by signing this petition

AFA-CWA is the largest Flight Attendant union representing Flight Attendant professionals at 18 airlines.


T-Mobile Worker Urges Deutsche Telekom Shareholders to Protect Workers' Rights

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Carolina Figueroa, a T-Mobile US call center worker in Albuquerque, N.M., urged Deutsche Telekom shareholders in Germany today to stop worker harassment by management at its U.S. subsidiary and respect workers' rights to organize.

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CWA's delegation marched with early childcare educators, who are currently in strike all over Germany.

Below: Carolina Figueroa addresses Deutsche Telekom shareholders.

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"T-Mobile workers who speak up for the union or engage in union activity are under constant surveillance, and management creates excuses to fire them," she said, speaking at the annual meeting of shareholders in Cologne, Germany. "The U.S. subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom is engaging in union avoidance – uncompromising and guilt-free."

Figueroa continued, "Does Deutsche Telekom want to take responsibility for the constant wrongdoings of American management? I ask the management board, why can't you stop this? Why can't you order T-Mobile to stay neutral? Too many of my co-workers have been disciplined and fired for their union activism."

Figueroa is a TU member who has been working with CWA and the 2 million-member German union ver.di, which represents workers at Deutsche Telekom, to build a movement for a union voice on the job and a fairer workplace. Thousands of ver.di members have held rallies against the unfair treatment of American T-Mobile workers, and workers on both sides of the Atlantic have created workplace partnerships to build solidarity.

Following weeks of public pressure by activists, T-Mobile management recently announced important nationwide changes regarding its American call center workers' ability to request and receive time off. TU members' stories were the centerpiece of The Center for Popular Democracy's latest report on how American workplace protections are badly out of sync with the needs of today's working families, "Hour by Hour: Women in Today's Workweek."

TU members were also instrumental in a recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision that found T-Mobile guilty of engaging in nationwide labor law violations against its workers. The judge ordered the company to rescind its illegal policies and inform all 46,000 employees about the verdict and the policy changes.

But, to date, the company has not followed the judge's orders, nor has it appealed 9 of the 11 guilty findings.

Earlier this month, ver.di chairman Frank Bsirske submitted a petition to the German Bundestag, urging the parliament to use its shareholder power to pressure Deutsche Telekom into enforcing international labor standards at T-Mobile. The petition demands organizing neutrality and the respect of workers' rights at all Deutsche Telekom sites abroad, and it asks the German government, which owns about 32 percent of the company, to investigate T-Mobile.

On June 2, activists will be attending T-Mobile's annual shareholder meeting in Bellevue, Wash. Two TU members, co-workers of Figueroa at the Albuquerque call center, will be delivering a petition to T-Mobile CEO John Legere, demanding, "T-Mobile, follow the judge's orders and revoke your illegal corporate policies and inform your employees you will stop breaking the law!"


Organizing Update

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American Red Cross Election Victory

At four locations from Virginia to North Carolina, 174 American Red Cross workers have voted for a voice in the workplace by joining CWA. The workers, part of the Mid-Atlantic Region, are now members of CWA Local 2201. Lead Organizer Stephanie Pazur has been working with this unit since the last election in 2012. Staff from the local, including Chris Brown, David Vincent and President Richard Hatch, assisted Pazur in the organizing.

112 Cricket Retail Workers in Colorado Join CWA

112 Cricket Retail Workers across Colorado have voted to actively participate in their work lives by joining CWA Locals 7708, 7750 and 7777. The American Arbitration Association certified that more than 50 percent of the workers indicated through Consent Authorization cards their desire to be represented by CWA. CWA District 7 Administrative Director Al Kogler said CWA Organizer Ted Hooker and AT&T Mobility and Local 7777 member Jason Schneider led the campaign with help from Local 7750 President Chris Roth and Local 7708 Secretary Treasurer Nancy Imhof.